A New Yorker transformed her childhood home into the chic apartment of her dreams

A side-by-side of apartment before and after it had been renovated.
Insider spoke to Hattie Kolp, who renovated the apartment she grew up in.
Hattie Kolp
  • Hattie Kolp grew up in a two-bedroom apartment on the Upper West Side of New York City.
  • In 2018, she took over her parents' lease, and she's been renovating the apartment ever since.
  • She turned the space into a Parisian-inspired dream home with pocket doors and two fireplaces.

Hattie Kolp grew up in an apartment on the Upper West Side of New York City.

A woman sits on a couch in a living room.
Hattie Kolp in her apartment.
Hattie Kolp

Kolp, 30, and her parents moved into the rent-stabilized apartment in 2002 when Kolp was 10 years old.

As Kolp told Insider, they had previously been living in a one-bedroom apartment where her parents slept in a Murphy-style bed. They were able to move into the two-bedroom apartment after some friends of Kolp's parents passed their lease to them when they were moving out of the city.

During their time in the apartment as a family, Kolp's parents made it clear that they would give the apartment to her someday in the same way.

"My parents had always told me that one day they would retire and leave the city," Kolp said. "My mom loved the city, but my dad has not loved it for so long."

Kolp moved into the apartment full-time in 2018.

A living room with a tv against a wall.
The living room of Kolp's apartment.
Hattie Kolp

In 2018, when Kolp was working as a special-education teacher, her parents finally retired, and Kolp took over the lease. 

Today, Kolp is a full-time content creator, and she lives in the approximately 1,500-square-foot apartment with her partner. They pay $1,300 per month thanks to the rent stabilization.

When Kolp moved into the apartment, she decided to start making changes to the space.

A living room with a white couch and an open door.
The changes evolved over time.
Hattie Kolp

Kolp told Insider she always had a love of interior design, but she didn't anticipate she would give her apartment a makeover when she took over the lease.

"As a kid, I loved design so much," she said. "I would stay up until three in the morning moving all the furniture around in my room. But I had forgotten about that love."

But when she moved into the apartment in the summer of 2018 and was faced with a completely empty space, Kolp realized she wanted to make the place her own.

A couch sits in front of a wall.
The apartment had plaster-covered pocket doors.
Hattie Kolp

Over the last four years, she has renovated and decorated the space in her own style, turning her childhood home into her dream space.

Kolp started her transformation of the apartment by opening up pocket doors from the two bedrooms that sit off of her living room. 

When Kolp was growing up in the apartment, the pocket doors were covered by tape and drywall that had been installed by a previous tenant, blocking the entrances into the bedrooms.

Kolp thought the covered doors were "horrible" and "that they just looked like walls." She knew she wanted to expose the doors after she moved in.

By opening the doors, Kolp completely revamped the space.

A couch sits in a living room in front of an open set of pocket doors.
Kolp opened up the living room.
Hattie Kolp

"We tore down the walls, and we kind of refinished the doors," Kolp said of herself and her partner. "That was definitely the most impactful thing we did."

"So now when you stand in the living room, it's very open and you can go into either bedroom," she said.

Kolp wanted to infuse her taste in the space while honoring the architectural integrity of the apartment.

A living room with a white and yellow fireplace.
She used the space as inspiration for the design.
Hattie Kolp

When Kolp initially moved into the apartment, she told Insider she gave the apartment a boho aesthetic, as that decor style was popular in 2018.

But as she continued living in the space, she realized that wasn't her taste, nor the right style for the apartment. 

"It really didn't feel like me, and it didn't feel like it matched the bones of the apartment," Kolp said. "I turned to Pinterest and I realized that the apartment, with the moldings and the pocket doors, it really looked a bit Parisian. So once I found inspiration images, I really became obsessed with searching 'Parisian apartment' on Pinterest."

"I was able to then draw a lot of inspiration from those, and my style also veers pretty traditional," Kolp went on to say. "The traditional element definitely stems from it being an old apartment," as well as her mom's career as an art historian. 

Kolp's apartment has neutral bases with pops of color that give it a traditional, chic feel.

A living room with a white fireplace and white pocket doors.
The apartment has Parisian and traditional-inspired decor.
Hattie Kolp

Kolp painted the living room walls white as well as the fireplace, and she installed a white chandelier. 

Cream and neutral-toned furniture complement the white in the space, and a printed rug brings a pop of color.

Kolp initially had her frame TV sitting on top of the fireplace, but she didn't like that it covered the built-in mirror.

She ended up displaying it on an acrylic easel, so it looks like a cool piece of art when it's not in use and doesn't cover the fireplace.

Kolp completely transformed her childhood bedroom when she moved into the apartment.

A bedroom with pink walls and pink curtains.
Hattie Kolp's childhood bedroom.
Hattie Kolp

When Kolp lived in the room as a kid, it had purple walls, pink curtains, and was mostly filled with a bed.

She initially set up the space as a guest room after moving back into the apartment.

"I had a bed in there. I had a dresser. I had a TV," Kolp said. "Slowly, that started to feel a little bit nonfunctional, especially during the pandemic, when I was suddenly home all the time."

"Why do I have a room that's solely a guest bedroom when I have guests maybe a few times a year?" she asked herself. "It seemed like a waste of space. And I'm very fortunate to live in Manhattan and have two bedrooms, so I thought why don't I do something a little more fun with this one?"

Kolp turned the formerly purple room into a stylish library.

A study with white bookshelves, a green couch, and green curtains.
The bedroom is now a library.
Hattie Kolp

Kolp painted the room white, and she lined the back wall with 8-foot-tall bookshelves.

A green couch that folds out into a bed and an heirloom desk sit in the space.

Kolp said the library offers her favorite view of the apartment.

"If I'm standing in my library and all the doors are open and I'm looking at my fireplace, the mirror on the fireplace reflects a mirror in my bedroom," she said. "Every time I see this view, I just stop, and I'm like, 'Oh my God.'"

"I love it so much," she added.

Kolp used contrast to make her bedroom pop.

A cat sits on the floor of a bedroom in front of a fireplace.
The primary bedroom.
Hattie Kolp

Once the pocket doors were open, the primary bedroom already felt a lot more open.

Kolp decided to emphasize that airy feel by painting the walls navy, which let the white wainscotting and white fireplace pop.

The crystal chandelier and white furniture bring in the Parisian vibe of the apartment.

The kitchen didn't have much storage when Kolp took over the lease.

A kitchen counter against a white wall.
The kitchen before the renovations.
Hattie Kolp

The kitchen had one big shelf above the large counter, which featured white cabinets.

The walls had no backsplash, and it wasn't as functional as it could be.

Additional storage made the kitchen cuter and more functional.

A kitchen with butcher-block countertops, open shelving, and a white backsplash.
Kolp added storage.
Hattie Kolp

Kolp swapped the one shelf above the counters for two multitiered, open shelves.

She also painted the cabinets a light green, brightening the space and making the butcher countertops pop.

She also added a subway-tile backsplash to make the space more dynamic.

The apartment also has a butler's pantry, which is hard to find in modern New York apartments.

A dark kitchen with white walls.
The pantry adds a lot of storage.
Hattie Kolp

The pantry offered the luxury of storage, but Kolp didn't think it was used to its full potential.

"It was always just kind of white, and it had a really horrible plywood floor," she said, which she assumes sits on top of tile. "And that room gets very little natural light and was always just this dark, dingy corridor."

She wanted to brighten the space and change the flooring, but she didn't want to have to pull out the plywood.

Kolp made the space chic by embracing the dark hues.

A kitchen with green walls.
Kolp brought in a bold color.
Hattie Kolp

"I leaned into the dark and I painted it a foresty-green color in a glossy paint," Kolp said. "So it kind of bounces light around, but it also just embraces the dark."

She put a black-and-white tile wallpaper on the floor, allowing the colors to bounce off of each other.

The small changes have made the butler pantry into one of Kolp's favorite spaces in the apartment because of how unique it is. 

"It's just so old school, and it has the original glass cabinets with these very cool latches that you have to kind of hook and unhook to open and close," she said. "And I have a dumbwaiter in there, which is not functioning anymore, but just knowing that it's there is such a good reminder of the past."

As the big changes came together, Kolp started focusing on the small details that give her home character.

A dark hallway with wood floors.
Every inch of the home was thoughtfully designed.
Hattie Kolp

For instance, she's been in the process of refinishing the apartment's brass doorknobs because they were previously painted over.

It can be a lot of work, but Kolp told Insider she has enjoyed the renovation process, leaving her personal stamp on things whenever possible.

"I put a note behind one of the doorknobs that I refinished, and I was just so excited," she said, which she documented on TikTok. "Hopefully someday, many years from now someone will find it."

Kolp's parents love the changes she's made to the apartment, too.

A hallway with white walls covered in framed artwork with runners on the floor.
Kolp's parents like the new and improved apartment.
Hattie Kolp

"It's really cute," she said of her parents' reaction to the apartment. "They'll kind of just walk around, they'll look up, they'll touch things on the wall. They're like, 'Oh, this is so nice.'"

"I think they're very proud, and they love how it looks," she added. "They never had that vision. So they're like, 'Wow, it's so amazing that you kind of saw the potential for it.'"

Kolp said she's learned it's important to be OK with making mistakes when working on a renovation project.

An entryway with white walls.
The process of renovating has been fun for Kolp.
Hattie Kolp

"I don't think it's good to be a perfectionist in that type of situation," she said. "It's about the journey of creating a beautiful space that you love."

"And if you make little mistakes along the way, it might be a cute memory," Kolp added.

For Kolp, renovating the apartment she was raised in has felt like an opportunity to show how grateful she is for her life.

An entryway with blue walls and a chandelier.
Hattie Kolp says the apartment is her "forever home."
Hattie Kolp

"It's been a labor of love for sure, and the fact that I've been able to do this with someone that I love very much has been really special," Kolp said of transforming the apartment with her partner.

"I'm very grateful for the life I've been given, and I'm very grateful for growing up in New York and on the Upper West Side," she said. "I'm so grateful and I know how lucky I am to have what I have."

"This is kind of my way of giving back," she said.

Deal icon An icon in the shape of a lightning bolt.

Keep reading

Close icon Two crossed lines that form an 'X'. It indicates a way to close an interaction, or dismiss a notification.